Alaska State Legislator Update: Representative Steve Thompson
While the legislative session is in recess due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are talking with legislators from our Interior Delegation about the legislative session. For this segment, we spoke to Fairbanks Representative Steve Thompson.
After passing the budget, the Alaska State Legislature went into recess on March 29, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic .
While Thompson has been back in Fairbanks, he says they have had many virtual meetings. “A lot of phone time with the legislators and with the leadership, and with our caucus... we’ve had a lot of phone-ins, and a lot of meetings that have lasted... I’ve spent sometimes six, seven hours a day on the phone trying to get things accomplished and trying to move forward with things,” said Thompson.
He says they have also had House Finance Committee meetings, and House Community and Regional Affairs Committee meetings.
There was talk of legislators going back down to Juneau, but Thompson says they weren’t able to get enough votes to go back to Juneau.
“I was ready to go, I didn’t really relish the idea, but I definitely was ready to go. I voiced my opinion that I would go but we could not get the Senate to go down. They said 'no', they were not going. If we went down and appropriated a bill, then we would be sitting there and they would not come down to do their side and ratify it. It came down to then 'why would we go down to Juneau'? I mean, it would not do us any good. So it came down to like 'okay, if the senate’s not going to go and we can’t get this accomplished then I’m not going either',” said Thompson.
Thompson says the legislative session will automatically adjourn at the end of the 120-day session, which is May 21.
“We could get called back in and we probably will go back in this fall. I don’t know when, maybe in September. We have to approve the governor’s appointments -- there [are] over a hundred of them. If we do not, those appointments all die, and those people cannot be reappointed. So we have to approve all of the governor’s appointments to boards and commissions,” said Thompson.
Looking towards the future, Thompson says next year is going to be a difficult year, possibly one of the worst years they’ve seen, due to the revenue forecast, downturn in oil, and the COVID-19 pandemic. “When you look at where we’re going to be, come the session starting in January, oh my gosh... not only oil revenue but also corporate income tax. We have a large portion of our budget still that comes from state corporations and that income tax is probably going to reduced sizably due to COVID-19,” said Thompson.
He says they are going to have to reduce the budget. “What does that mean as far as how much of that reduction will affect schools, public safety, the courts, roads... that’s going to be a really difficult year,” said Thompson.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Thompson encourages people to stay safe, wash their hands and wear masks when going in crowded areas.
“I’m at risk. I’m an older person, I’ve got diminished lung capacity and that would be very bad. I do not want to catch this. It’s kind of one of those situations where hopefully we’re going to be able to come out of this; but with opening up, the restrictions on what’s going on, we’ll probably end up with some spikes of people catching this -- and that’s what bothers me and scares me about this. We want to move our economy forward, we have to, it’s as devastating to people as the disease itself,” said Thompson.